Happy New Year!
If you’re new here, welcome! If you’re returning, welcome back! I hope this finds you well and in good spirits. As we dive into 2022 I will be experimenting with a new format for our monthly newsletter. Each month I’ll be sending out a set of videos and tips to help you build and maintain your personal practice.
For January, we will focus on going within and listening deeply to become conscious of what we need. Being householders we go to work, we keep up a home, we interact with others so, if you’re like me, it’s easy to get caught up in caring for others and neglecting yourself. As the holiday season comes to a close set the intention of giving some time and energy back
Yoga Set: Pittra Kriya
This kriya consists of three different exercises all done for equal amounts of time. The goal of this set is to move the breath and move the body in order to shift the mood and lighten the spirit. One exercise will open up the kidney energy to help process anxiety and stress, a second exercise will ask the chakras and energy centers to open up and finally, the third exercise will balance the nervous system. As with everything, listen to your body and find the practice in a way that best serves you. If anything hurts, don’t do it; instead, you can close your eyes, breathe and visualize the exercises.
Pranayama Exercise: Extended Exhale
How to Practice: Sit in a comfortable seat, gently close your eyes or soften your gaze on something in front of you like a candle or beautiful photo. When you are ready you will inhale, suspend the breath in, and exhale slowly, at the bottom of your exhale begin again. You can start with a 4-second inhale, 2-second hold, and 6-second exhale.
By slowing the breath down and focusing on the exhale we can generate a calming and almost sleepy state. This breath has been wonderful for me to practice when I am feeling anxious or nervous when I have been deeply sad, or when I was full of nerves before a show. This is a great breathe to use throughout your day or as a daily practice. You can start off with three minutes every day, my advice is to practice this one right before bed.
Tips for Yogic Living: Self Study, Svadhyaya
- Be conscious of your breath as you move through your day.
- Journal regularly to notice shifts in thinking, emotions, or other forms of growth.
Yoga is much more than a set of postures and reciting mantras. Yoga, for many, is a lifestyle and the practice goes beyond the mat. How I try to incorporate living my yoga is to be conscious of my breathing as I go through my day. Something so automatic as our breath is easy to forget about. I know that when I get hyper-focused on a task or am in a stressful situation I sometimes forget to breathe altogether. When was the last time you took a moment to just stop and notice how you are breathing?
For me, when I get anxious my breathing turns shallow and stays at the top of the chest, when I’m calm I’m feeling into the rise and fall of my tummy, and when I’m running I try to think about breathing with my whole torso. When you take a moment to focus on your breath you are inviting your mind to come back home into the body. You are beginning that process of self-study by concentrating on your breathing. Noticing your breath is noticing what is going on within your internal landscape and often times leads to a flow of thoughts, feelings, or other sensations. At first, the process of being still and concentrating on my breathing was really uncomfortable. It was over time that my body and mind came into synchronicity – I mentally knew I was in a safe space concentrating on my breath and my body began to learn that too.
As with everything yoga, it’s a process of unfolding and I invite you over the next month to take at least 30 seconds to 3 minutes to sit, breath, and notice what comes up while you practice the extended exhale breath. Journaling can be fun and easy, and it can also be deep and contemplative. One task is that each day before you practice, quickly write down two or three words about how you are feeling and then do the same exercise afterward and see if there is any shift. Track this list over time, say over the next month, to notice if there are any trends or overall shifts.